CRANE, Ind. – Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) and the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) collaborated to provide summer internships for students in the X-Force Program. This is the second summer the NSIN X-Force program has taken place, and the first year NSWC Crane has sponsored topics for this program.
Morgan C. Plummer, the Managing Director of NSIN, says this partnership is important.
“Highly engaged Department of Defense (DoD) partners like NSWC Crane are critical to the success of the X-Force Fellowship, especially under the challenging circumstances of conducting hands on problem solving in a virtual environment,” says Plummer. “Crane’s partnership and willingness to collaborate with non-traditional problem solvers has helped expose top talent at places like Indiana University (IU) to unique opportunities for service, and accelerated the growth of the defense problem solving ecosystem in Indiana. We are incredibly excited by the work happening between NSWC Crane and IU, and look forward to continuing to develop this nationally critical defense ecosystem.”
Dr. Jonathan Dilger, the Director of Research at NSWC Crane, says the students’ efforts went beyond his expectations.
“With the program suddenly going remote for COVID, I expected we would see challenges,” says Dr. Dilger. “But the students adapted remarkably. They made use of the online tools and were unbelievably productive. We were excited with what they produced.”
The X-Force Program provides fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students to work alongside DoD scientists and engineers across the country. The fellowship allows students to work on real-world national security problems in collaboration with the United States military. This internship program was originally going to host students in Crane labs, but due to the circumstances of COVID-19, the students participated remotely.
In 2020, there were 13 fellowship awards for students from regional academic partners including Indiana University, Purdue University, and Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI).
Dr. Dilger says the students were uniquely organized in teams to solve sets of Navy challenges.
“I really liked how the teams were set up to have diverse backgrounds of education,” says Dr. Dilger. “Students pursuing their bachelor’s, master’s, and Doctorate degrees were on the same team. You want that in the lab to do the research. Having unique backgrounds brings different perspectives to solve the problem. For technology applications, diversity of education is really important.”
Teams were divided into four projects covering a wide range of technical focus areas: Automating Printed Circuit Board, Advanced Hypersonic Platform Development, Airship Wargames, and Onboard Energy Storage.
Dr. Dilger says the Advanced Hypersonic Platform Development project was successful in mapping an entire network of scientific publications in an interactive, visual tool that can be used by subject matter experts. This project also received a follow on award from the Office of Naval Research (ONR).
“The multidisciplinary team captured millions of science publications over the last century and turned it into actionable data for our scientists to use,” says Dr. Dilger. “They spent the summer creating interactive plots across national and international landscapes that will be useful for the advanced concept groups at Crane.”
Dr. Mehmet M. Dalkilic is a visiting Research Faculty at NSWC Crane. Dr. Dalkilic is also a PhD Associate Professor at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at IU. Dr. Dalkilic was a project sponsor for the Airship Wargames problem set.
“The X Force Program has been a remarkable experience for me. I'm looking forward to continuing as long as I can--this mixing of the academy with the needs of helping our warfighters. Collaborating on tough problems with outstanding students has led to not only a solid deliverable--in our case, a simulator for rational drones--but also opportunities for an Academic Accelerator Grant too that, I expect, will showcase what the combined people coming from both Crane and IU can do as a team! The project has had such a positive, uplifting effect on the students too that they also unanimously want to continue working on it.”
These X-Force Fellowship awards mark the first time that Crane has accessed the NSIN network upon installing the first-ever IU Program Director, Mike Dodd.
“Crane has made a concentrated effort to take advantage of expertise that exists in the academia sphere,” says Dr. Dilger. “This program leverages professors working in niche tech areas and students looking to begin their careers and make a difference. These are real problems the Navy is trying to solve. This program is tailored to give students challenging problems to work on.”
About NSWC Crane
NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.
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